Managing the people who work for one’s business is one of the most crucial tasks required of a business owner – indeed, it’s why human resources departments exist. In the world of HOAs and community associations, the responsibility for collaborating with and directing the community manager or management company falls to the board.
Whether a given community works with a single management professional or a firm with multiple employees, the job of that professional or firm includes handling the vendors and all the staff that perform services for the buildings and associations in their portfolio. Individual managers are accountable to their corporate chiefs of course, but additional oversight should also be performed by the board. But since the vast majority of condo association and HOA boards are made up of volunteers, and most are not HR experts, how does a board go about managing their managers?
Know Your Contract – and Your Expectations
“The board is spending owners’ money to provide a service—in this case professional management—and it has an obligation to assess [the management company],” says Thomas Skiba, CEO of the Community Associations Institute (CAI), an international membership organization providing education, resources, research, and advocacy for condo association and homeowners’ associations.
So how do boards proceed? Before you can really assess whether your community manager is doing her or his job, you have to define exactly what the job is. Vagueness and hazy expectations do nobody any favors; any professional worth their credentials will tell you that clear, concise unambiguous language and transparency go a very long way toward establishing and maintaining a productive association board-management relationship.
According to Skiba, “The obvious place to start is, what are the obligations of the management company as per their contract? If the contract says financials [need to be] ready by the 15th of the month, that’s a quantitative assessment—it’s easy to say if it’s done or not done.